WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…See full bio
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As the popularity of kombucha on tap continues to grow throughout California, you’ve probably seen kombucha popping up at local grocery stores, farmers markets, restaurants, and maybe even in your office building. While it’d be easy to overlook this interesting beverage and assume it’s just another fleeting trend, in reality, kombucha is a healthful drink with a history of 1,000-plus years.
Kombucha (also called booch) is a fermented tea crafted by combining tea, water, and sugar, then adding symbiotic cultures known as SCOBY (which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”). These cultures allow the mixture to ferment and give off kombucha’s unique flavor profile. Once fermented, kombucha has contradictory sweet and tart nuances as well as a slight vinegary taste and delightful natural carbonation. After this initial fermentation, many brewers add flavorings—such as pineapple, pomegranate, ginger, lemon, and herbs—to give the beverage a more distinct taste.
Like Oakland’s Olipop drinks, kombucha teas are full of gut-healthy ingredients that can help people feel happier and more balanced. Booch is packed with probiotics, healthy acids, and other nutrients that make it the perfect natural supplement and an excellent alternative to beverages with synthetic ingredients. The organic acid and low pH levels promote health and have been shown to kill various pathogens, including E.coli, Listeria, and Salmonella on contact.
While you may have heard that kombucha contains alcohol—especially now that hard kombucha is having a moment—it is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process and exists in low levels (similar to unpasteurized fruit juices). Because the amount of alcohol in kombucha is non-inebriating, anyone can purchase kombucha.
Though every individual reacts differently to kombucha’s probiotics and nutrients and may require varying amounts of the drink to reap the benefits, many regular drinkers report that kombucha:
If you’re looking to buy kombucha, chances are you’ve heard of at least a dozen brands, but it’s important to support local producers as much as possible. Before you start brewing kombucha in your own kitchen, give our top six picks a shot and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Based in: Petaluma
Revive Kombucha is not your average booch. Husband-and-wife team Sean and Rebekah Lovett turned to kombucha as a healthy alternative to sugary soda and set out to create a good-tasting, satisfying beverage—and they did just that.
Made using organic, vegan, Fair Trade, and non-GMO ingredients, Revive products are unique in the taste and impact. If that’s not enough to convince you, the brand’s enticing flavors—such as Cherry Hibiscus, Strawberry Lemon, and Mocha Java Coffee—ought to be reason enough to give this organic kombucha a shot, especially since you can try it risk-free with their “Super Tasty” guarantee.
Based in: Torrance
Health-Ade Kombucha sticks to traditional, natural methods of brewing and fermentation for luxury you can taste. The company also uses the highest-quality ingredients to tailor each of its dozen-plus flavors, leading to memorable experiences time and time again.
Pick up a bottle of Bubbly Rose, Pink Lady Apple, Tropical Punch, or Jalapeño-Kiwi-Cucumber kombucha to brighten up your time at home and embrace some summer vibes.
Based in: Novato
Marin Kombucha is the result of a passion project started by two brothers who were living between San Francisco and Napa Valley. After sharing his concoctions with loved ones for years, CEO and founder Brian Igersheim finally decided to share them with the world—and it’s easy to see why Marin Kombucha has found success.
Each recipe is brewed in small batches using organic and locally sourced ingredients. The concoction is also aged in oak to enhance the natural flavors and promote the healing antioxidants, organic acids, and probiotics found in kombucha. Try the Pinot Sage, Apple Juniper, or Ginger Lemongrass flavors to experience the difference, or opt for the original oak to savor how it all started.
Based in: Long Beach
Fine Feathers Kombucha Co. is a step above the rest, with deep commitments to quality over quantity and to maintaining integrity, transparency, sustainability, and ethical business practices. Combining reverse osmosis–filtered water, organic ingredients, and a touch of flair from small local farms, this kombucha is sure to expand your horizons and redefine the boundaries of the booch.
Stock up on the Jasmine Peony, Lemongrass Oolong, and Rooibos Palo Santo flavors to feel at ease and reinvigorated no matter how many meetings you have on your plate.
Based in: Berkeley
House Kombucha is a woman-founded, employee-owned social enterprise setting a great example for both sustainable business practices and delicious kombucha. By focusing on crafting smooth teas without the traditional vinegar punch, House Kombucha is reinventing the booch game.
With a wide range of flavors that are neither too sweet nor overly sour, House Kombucha’s brews provide an easy introduction to organic kombucha that’s likely to open your mind (even if you’ve had less-than-desirable kombucha experiences in the past). Opt for a mixed case to find your favorite flavor—though with options such as Citrus Hibiscus, Jasmine Apple, Lavender Lemonade, and Sun Blossom, it’s hard to choose just one.
Based in: Beverly Hills
GT’s Living Foods is perhaps the most famous booch brand in California, thanks in part to its ever-popular Synergy kombucha line. Though GT’s has become a household name among fermented-beverage enthusiasts, the company has stuck to its original principles, offering raw, organic kombucha to the masses.
Pick up a bottle of Synergy organic kombucha in Golden Pineapple, Rose Berry, Mystic Mango, Strawberry Serenity, or honestly any other flavor to get a glimpse of why the brew has become so popular. More traditional kombucha lovers should give GT’s Enlightened Kombuchas a go; made with two-percent juice instead of five, these drinks give off the effervescent essence with more of the pure kombucha taste.
With so many incredible kombucha brands to choose from in the Golden State, it’s the perfect time to host your own at-home taste test. Do you prefer the fresh and fruity flavors or the classically tart kombucha options? Share your go-tos with us in the comments section.
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